You want a “clean,” error-free manuscript. And one step towards that is to check your punctuation. Today let’s learn a few rules about commas.
Places you need a comma:
After a short prepositional phrase at beginning of sentence
So what’s a prepositional phrase? It’s a phrase that begins with a preposition, and a preposition is simply a small word that shows a relationship with another word. Some examples: of, in, out, about, behind, below, on, under. You can google more prepositions here — there are many!
The rule: You need a comma after a prepositional phrase at beginning of sentence of 5 words or more. Or another way of saying it, you do not need a comma after an introductory prepositional phrase of 4 words or less.
Example: In the backseat under the passenger side, I found my umbrella.
The prepositional phrase: In the backseat under the passenger side,
That’s 7 words, so a comma is needed.
What about this sentence where the prepositional phrase is After my workout?
Example: After my workout I usually have a green juice.
This is correct! No comma needed because the prepositional phrase is four words or less – in this case three words, After my workout.
Some editing programs will tell you to put a comma after any prepositional phrase, but that’s not really the rule.
A comma and a coordinating conjunction separates two independent clauses
An independent clause is a fancy way of saying a sentence with a subject and a verb. An independent clause makes sense on its own.
And coordinating conjunction? Small connecting words. Use the acronym FANBOYS- for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.
Example of two independent clauses:
I love going to the beach in Florida. I always jump in the ocean the minute I get there.
So now let’s join these two clauses/sentences with a comma and a conjunction.
Correctly punctuated example with comma:
I love going to the beach in Florida, and I always jump in the ocean the minute I get there.
The pattern is comma, then conjunction.
Beware of this sentence, however, that follows a different pattern:
I love going to the beach in Florida and always jump in the ocean the minute I get there.
Do you see the difference in this sentence? I left out the word I in the second clause.
Is the above sentence correct or incorrect?
When the second part of the sentence is not an independent clause- in other words, it cannot stand on its own – then no comma needed.
Places you don’t need a comma:
When And or But are at the beginning of a sentence, you do not need a comma.
There was a day when we were taught not to start a sentence with And or But. However, that’s not really a rule anymore. And I’m not sure where that rule came from (see what I started this sentence with)!
So what about commas?
Most of the time you don’t need a comma after And or But at the beginning of the sentence.
Correctly punctuated example:
But I knew deep down that saying goodbye would be one of the hardest things I’d do.
And we hope to move to the mountains soon.
So just a few comma rules. One reason I teach about grammar and punctuation is it help give you confidence as a writer to know some rules.
Shout out to all my girls who love grammar and punctuation (like Carol and Bethany!) Let me know if you’re a grammar/punctuation lover too!
I’ll be writing more about punctuation in future blog posts. And if there’s something specific you want me to write about, let me know!
Thank you for being here!
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